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Board Building for Iconography Workshop

Board Building in Traditional Iconography refers to not just cutting and preparing the wood, sometimes with raised borders, but also a day-long process of applying “gesso”, a mixture of rabbit-skin glue and calcium carbonate. The result is the board on which traditional egg-tempera icons are painted.

Though it takes time to make, it is really the only surface on which it is possible to both hold the many layers of paint and stand the test of time by not cracking, warping, etc. All icons throughout history, as well as Renaissance Art before the popularization of oil paint, were painted on traditionally gessoed surfaces such as this. Because of the patience and time required, an argument can also be made that board building is a valuable part of the spiritual presentation for painting, or “writing” an icon. As with applying paint in iconography, applying the gesso is a “prayer of the hands.”

Though not a required prerequisite, this class can be used to build the board for upcoming Iconography Workshops (Fall or Spring) or either of the levels of Iconography Apprenticeship (Year 1 or Year 2). It is strongly recommended before Iconography Apprenticeship Year 2. (Note that the cost of the hand-gessoed board the student would need to purchase for Year 2 is the same or more than the price of this class.) Once the class is taken, most students will be able to build as many boards as they want on their own, without taking the workshop again.

Student Expectations

  • As well as being available during the weekday evenings (except Thursday, when the board needs to dry), the student must be gessoing all day on Saturday, as all the layers must be applied in one day in order to adhere to each other.
  • The course materials are extensive, especially with regard to household and hardware-store type supplies. Please see the course materials tab and video with additional explanation.
  • An adult should be paired with a school-aged student of any age to help with gathering supplies and cutting the board to size before class, or finding someone to do so. The adult should be available, though not necessarily continuously present, for problem-solving during the all-day Saturday class.

Enrollment Restrictions

  • Patience, fine motor skills, and an ability to follow directions closely are required for this class
  • Though no artistic training is expected or required, experience and skill in another hands-on skill is an indicator of success in this class. Examples would include proficiency in cooking or baking, gardening, woodworking, home improvement, or ceramics. Please email the instructor if you have questions about whether you or your student are ready for this class.


For more about Mrs. Sider-Rose’s process, please see



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Overview Video

  1. Overview of all the classes (0.00)
    • The classes as listed on the St. Raphael website
    • The difference between the Workshops, the Apprenticeships, and the Summer Camp
  2. Description of the different offerings in more detail (2:32)
    • World Iconography Camp, (2:35)
    • Apprenticeship (9:00)
    • Age requirements for all the classes, including Workshops (11:40)
  3. Summer Board Building Workshop (12:27)

Please e-mail the instructor if you have any questions about the right class for you or your student:

Randi Maria Sider-Rose began painting icons over 20 years ago when she was able to travel to learn from different iconography teachers across the country. Since then, she has married Michael Sider-Rose and completed an MDiv at the University of Chicago Divinity School. As well as taking commissions from churches and individuals, Mrs. Sider-Rose loves to walk with students on the journey of learning to see better and more intentionally, using this “prayer of the hands” to grow in holiness, with God’s grace. Homeschooling her four children in an urban fixer-upper strewn with books, art projects, and Legos helps keep the whole operation real.

Mrs. Sider-Rose and her family attend Saint Moses the Black Orthodox Mission Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she has been blessed by His Grace Bishop Thomas to serve in the ministry of iconography.


For more information about Mrs. Sider-Rose’s process, please visit her website at



Red checkmarkComputer: You will need a stable, reliable computer, running with a processor with a speed of 1 GHz or better on one of the following operating systems: Mac OS X with Mac OS 10.7 or later; Windows 8, 7, Vista (with SP1 or later), or XP (with SP3 or later). We do not recommend using an iPad or other tablet for joining classes. An inexpensive laptop or netbook would be much better solutions, as they enable you to plug an Ethernet cable directly into your computer. Please note that Chromebooks are allowed but not preferred, as they do not support certain features of the Zoom video conference software such as breakout sessions and annotation, which may be used by our teachers for class activities.

Red checkmarkHigh-Speed Internet Connection: You will also need access to high-speed Internet, preferably accessible via Ethernet cable right into your computer. Using Wi-Fi may work, but will not guarantee you the optimal use of your bandwidth. The faster your Internet, the better. We recommend using a connection with a download/upload speed of 5/1 Mbps or better. You can test your Internet connection here.

Red checkmarkWebcam: You may use an external webcam or one that is built in to the computer. Webcam Recommendations: Good (PC only) | Best (Mac and PC)

Red checkmarkHeadset: We recommend using a headset rather than a built-in microphone and speakers. Using a headset reduces the level of background noise heard by the entire class. Headset Recommendations: USB | 3.5mm

Red checkmarkZoom: We use a web conferencing software called Zoom for our classes, which enables students and teachers to gather from around the globe face to face in real time. Zoom is free to download and easy to use. unnamed-e1455142229376 To download Zoom:


  1. Visit
  2. Click to download the first option listed, Zoom Client for Meetings.
  3. Open and run the installer on your computer.
  4. In August, students will be provided with instructions and a link for joining their particular class.


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First, read the available course descriptions, noting prerequisites, target grades, and course objectives. If you think your student is prepared for the course, go ahead and register. After registration, a placement assessment may be provided to students, depending on the course and the student’s previous enrollment with Scholé Academy. Registration is finalized when the student’s placement assessment has been returned by the course instructor with placement confirmation.


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Our Assistant to the Principal will be in touch with you after your enrollment to help you with next steps, including any placement evaluations that may be required for your course selections.

This registration will be finalized when the student's placement assessment has been returned by the course instructor with placement confirmation.